This is my grandmother’s recipe for make-ahead yeast rolls. The dough keeps up to 2 weeks in the refrigerator and is extremely versatile. If you love to bake, I highly recommend having this dough on hand for Killer Pecan Sticky Buns, Sticky Orange-Coconut Pinwheels, and Hot Cross Buns with Raisins, Apricots, and Cranberries, as well as for these delicious dinner rolls.
Makes 2½ to 3 dozen rolls
½ cup warm water (105 to 115 degrees)
One ¼-ounce package active dry yeast
½ cup sugar
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
2 cups milk
1 teaspoon salt
6 ½ cups all-purpose flour
4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter, melted
1. Grease a baking sheet and set aside.
2. Place the warm water, yeast, and about 1 teaspoon of the sugar in a small bowl; stir once or twice just to mix. Let stand in a warm place for 5 or 7 minutes, until small bubbles form on top.
3. Meanwhile, in a saucepan, combine the butter, milk, salt, and remaining sugar and cook over very low heat, stirring constantly, until the sugar dissolves and the butter melts. Do not let the mixture go over 115 degrees or it will kill the yeast; it should be just warm enough for the sugar to dissolve. Remove from the heat and pour the mixture into a large bowl.
4. Add the yeast mixture to the milk mixture and stir until combined. Stir in about 6 cups of the flour and mix until the mixture forms a soft dough. Add the remaining flour if the dough is still sticky.
5. Remove the mixture from the bowl and knead on a lightly floured work surface 5 to 8 times, until dough forms a ball or comes together.
6. Lightly oil a large bowl and place the dough in the bowl; cover with a tea towel or plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place for 30 to 45 minutes, until the dough has doubled in bulk.
7. Punch down the dough and divide it into 2 equal pieces. Place the pieces on a work surface and cover loosely with a tea towel or an inverted bowl and let rest 5 to 10 minutes. (The dough can be refrigerated in an airtight container until ready to use at this point. Remove from the refrigerator and let rest for 15 to 20 minutes, then proceed as the recipe directs.)
8. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
9. Working with a piece of dough at a time, roll out on a lightly floured work surface until ¾ to 1 inch thick. Cut with a 2½-inch round biscuit cutter.
10. Place the rolls on the prepared baking sheet and let rise 20 to 25 minutes more, until the rolls have doubled in bulk. (It may take 10 to 15 minutes longer for dough to rise if it has been refrigerated.) Brush the tops lightly with melted butter. Repeat with the remaining dough.
11. Bake 20 to 25 minutes, until golden brown. Remove from the oven and serve immediately.